Anti-Corruption: First review of the EU’s implementation of United Nations Convention against Corruption

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.

Today, the Commission is setting out its approach to undertake a review of the EU’s implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). As a party to the Convention, the EU must evaluate how its rules and practices comply with the anti-corruption principles, objectives and requirements under the Convention to identify any deficiencies that require legislative, institutional and practical reforms.

In the Communication presented today, the Commission:

  • Informs all EU institutions of its intention to launch the review process ahead of the UN General Assembly Special Session against Corruption 2021;
  • Sets out a framework to facilitate the review to allow swift progress in fulfilling all necessary legal obligations, in full respect of the principle of sincere cooperation and administrative autonomy of the institutions;
  • Invites the EU institutions to participate and cooperate at all stages of the process.

The EU’s work to fight corruption

The Communication is the latest in a number of measures taken by the Commission to address corruption in the EU. Important progress has been made on legislation on anti-money laundering, public procurement, whistle-blower protection and asset recovery. In the framework of the European Semester, the fight against corruption is among the topics addressed in country-specific recommendations. Further EU measures are in place for the protection of financial interests, including the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office, with a mandate to investigate, prosecute and bring to judgment crimes against the EU budget. The recent EU Rule of Law Report highlights the fight against corruption as a fundamental pillar for upholding the rule of law. Corruption also has an impact on the business environment, which is why anticorruption is also an important component of the Recovery and Resilience Plans.

On the global stage, the EU has played an important role in the adoption of the resolution on the fight against corruption adopted by the UN General Assembly in June 2020. This resolution paved the way for the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on challenges and measures to prevent and combat corruption and strengthen international cooperation, planned for April 2021.

The Commission also organises regular anti-corruption experience-sharing workshops across the EU to support Member States, and provides support via ISF and ESIF funds. As a follow up to the EU Security Union Strategy, the 2021 Commission Work Program foresees a Communication on an EU Agenda to tackle organised crime, including the fight against corruption.

Members of the College said

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: “Corruption is a threat to democracy and to the rule of law and it has no place in the EU institutions. By setting out our plans for an anti-corruption review at EU level, we are fulfilling our international commitments and we are strengthening the EU’s role in the global fight against corruption. I am looking forward to the active participation and cooperation of all the EU institutions in this process”.

Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said: “The fight against corruption is fundamental for upholding the rule of law. This year we presented the first annual Rule of Law report, where the fight against corruption is a key part of the evaluation. This ensures that the fight against corruption will also be a key part of the deepened rule of law dialogue that we are now having at EU and at national level. We are committed to seeing the rule of law upheld in every corner of the EU and we will continue to do the maximum we can to fight corruption.


The United Nations Convention against Corruption is the only legally binding international anti-corruption treaty. The Convention aims to improve measures to prevent and combat corruption, promote the proper management of public affairs, and facilitate international cooperation and technical assistance against corruption. Its reach is comprehensive both in terms of geographic coverage (187 parties) and issues covered. All EU Member States are parties to the Convention and the EU became a party to the Convention in 2008. So far, the EU is the only regional organisation that is a party to the Convention.  

All parties to the Convention must undergo a review of the implementation of the Convention. International agreements concluded by the EU are binding upon the institutions of the Union and on its Member States and the review mechanism established under this Convention is binding upon all the parties to the Convention.

The EU has on many occasions underlined its commitment to the review process. The European Parliament and the Council have specifically recalled the importance for the EU to fulfil the review obligation. 

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